Tag Archives: Research Methods

Are you giving research responders what they want?

For the most part, researchers live off of surveys. The vast
majority of researchers specialize or have basic skills in writing surveys and
analyzing survey data. But in the last few years, many more tools have become
readily available to us.
We recently conducted a quick survey (there’s the first
bias!) asking people about their opinions to a number of different common
research methods (‘What is your opinion about participating in these kinds of
market research studies? Love, Like, Neutral, Dislike, Hate’). 
Obviously,
surveys were the favored method with 80% of more than 370 responders giving a
top 2 box response. Far behind surveys were communities at 49%, an interesting
result given that communities are a relatively new phenomenon. In third place at
44% was online focus groups. And in fourth place, mobile surveys received only a
32% approval rating, likely the result of our reliance on ancient survey designs
and our inability to keep up with the advanced features of smartphones. In last
place, face to face research generated approval from only 23% of people.
One of the main things we worry about as researchers is how
satisfied people are with the research process. We know that as satisfaction
declines, so do response rates. Well, one key feature of satisfaction is ensuring
that we allow people to participate in research using a method they like.
Let’s consider 18 to 24 year olds, the most coveted, fawned
after group of people that researchers want to listen to. Though 80% of people
approved of surveys, only 75% of young people did. What they wanted more than
any other age group was mobile surveys (56% vs 32%). We’d better step up our
mobile survey skills and technology!
What about people who have a lot of education, another
highly sought after group? While 73% of them approve of surveys, they are also more
interested in focus groups than average (39% vs 31%). Granted, getting people
to attend a focus group may be difficult but there is an important group of
people who like them and should be offered them.
Try an online focus group (51% vs 44%) if you’d like to interest
full-time employed people. Interested in higher-income people? Forget surveys
and go straight to communities (57% vs 49%). Need to listen to people from
different ethnicities? Try mobile surveys to interest African American people (41%
vs 32%), communities to interest Asian people (62% vs 49%), or focus groups to interest
Hispanic people (31% vs 44%).

So who hates face to face research more than researchers? With
just 13% approval, don’t even think about conducting face to face research with
women aged 18 to 24.

Annie Pettit, PhD is the Chief Research Officer at Peanut Labs, a company specializing in self-serve panel sample. Annie is a methodologist focused on data quality, listening research, and survey methods. She won Best Methodological Paper at Esomar 2013, and the 2011 AMA David K. Hardin Award. Annie tweets at @LoveStats and can be reached at annie@peanutlabs.com.

Diaries – the right method for the right purpose

Diaries have traditionally taken a major role in the qualitative research and have their place in the modern canon of methods. They offer an authentic view in consumers’ everyday life and give room for participants’ creative self-expression. More and more they are used as a kind of pre-task ahead of qualitative methods, used to stimulate participants to deal with the research subject in the run-up and to gather initial findings for the design of the survey situation (e.g. design of the discussion room, fine-tuning of the guideline …).

Photo by Josh DiMauro

Technological progress and the opportunities it creates for market research have particular impact on this method. Several years ago the method of keeping diaries had to be carried out as paper-and-pencil. Over the past years it has diversified and now offers plenty of different varieties.

In addition to the traditional paper-and-pencil method, participants are increasingly encouraged to keep mobile or online diaries.

So when to use what?

Rules of thumb are a little flat. Neither is paper-and-pencil completely out of fashion nor is it necessary to go all the way mobile. As so often, it depends…

Depending on the research objectives, different methods for using diaries are useful and others are not.

When it comes to mobile usage of diaries, because notes about emotions and activities on the go should be recorded, flexibility and simplicity is important. On these dimensions paper-and-pencil executions as well mobile diaries offer more benefits than online, because both smart-phone and offline diary can be carried around easily and flexible.

In specific settings, for example where drawings of the participants are important, or where own handwriting is essential, because deeper reflection is necessary, there is no alternative to paper-pencil notes. In particular, the online and mobile versions are somewhat limited when it comes to expressing the own creativity. The technological development indeed evolves rapidly. But currently internet technology is not equal to creative possibilities of offline diaries yet.





A huge advantage of online diaries is the possible integration of audio-visual elements such as photos, videos and audio files. These elements can serve as a support of the written word. Furthermore it is much easier to process participants’ input via online, no shipping, transcription or scanning needed. And the researchers themselves are able to follow the process in real time and so are able to give feedback on specific aspects while participants are keeping their notes.

Nevertheless it is quite important to be clear about the question in which environments the records will be used. For the implementation of workshop formats creatively-made paper-pencil diaries are significantly better suitable than mobile diaries. Online diaries are constantly improving, mainly because videos deliver unique insights into the reality of life and emotions of the participants.

The Market Research Event 2011 is November in Orlando, Florida, hosted by IIR USA, deals with the topics Online Research and Mobile Research (among others). I’m curious what they will tell us about diaries.

About the author: Christian D??ssel is blogging about market research in German language here and here. After having worked for TNS, TBWA and other strategy and market research agencies he now holds the position of Senior Research Director at MM-Eye in Hamburg / Germany with special responsibilities for MM-Eye’s new media and online research approaches.